05.19.11

Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy On President Obama’s Arab Spring Speech And Funding Request

This is an historic time in the political geography of the Middle East, and this is a crucial time for our relations with the people in that region.  The President movingly expressed our nation’s support for universal human rights, and for those who are protesting for better governance and a better future.  It was a speech that gave voice to American values, while identifying our national interests as the Arab Spring unfolds.  

I will review the President’s proposal to provide additional aid for Egypt.  Many details have yet to be decided.  There is a need to consider our national interest in supporting the Egyptian people during this difficult transition period, while reserving the bulk of our support until we have seen free and fair elections and until a new government is in place committed to the rule of law and to improving the lives of its people. 

The President is right to impose sanctions against the Syrian Government.  President Assad had the chance to demonstrate that he is a reformer, willing to respond to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.  Instead he chose the path of his father – ruthless repression against defenseless civilians.

The President identified key issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the difficult choices the two parties face.  He is right that it is up to the parties to act, and that the United States cannot impose a solution.  I hope the Administration finds ways to play an effective role, with our considerable influence, to encourage the parties to end this deadly and contagious conflict.

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